A Zero Waste Project: Farmer’s Market

It is significantly better for the environment to purchase locally sourced goods because it eliminates the waste produced from transporting industry-produced foods. Photo by PhotoMIX Company from Pexels.

So my plan was to spend this past week figuring out how to compost from my apartment … that was a slightly larger task than I was expecting. For that reason, we’ll hold off on composting until next week, and instead focus on something a little easier to pull off last minute: going to the farmer’s market. 

I went to a farmer’s market for the first time this summer, just for fun, but since starting my zero waste journey and thinking about all the waste that comes with buying produce, I’ve been thinking a lot more about buying local. 

Why make this swap? 

Going to a farmer’s market isn’t a perfect “swap.” A farmer’s market isn’t like a grocery store, where you have every option in the world splayed out in front of you. Rather, you have a smaller selection of locally-sourced items. There are different vendors and different wares each week. It’s easier to roll with what you see, rather than go into your trip with a list. So the word “swap” may not be totally accurate. But why bother making this trip? 

Buying locally-sourced products is almost always going to be better for the environment, whether you’re talking about waste, or carbon emissions, or chemical usage. By eliminating the resources used to transport industry-produced food all over the country, you eliminate a lot of the invisible waste that comes along with produce. Farmer’s market produce uses less transportation and less packaging. Besides the benefits for zero waste specifically, you’re also supporting the local economy and can better understand where your food comes from and how it’s produced. There’s no question about whether farm workers were exploited, or if they used dangerous pesticides. And if there are questions, just go ahead and ask the farmer. 

What I did 

I’ve been to the Storrs farmer’s market twice now. The first time just to scope things out, and the second time I was just looking for bread, so I actually have yet to buy produce from the farmer’s market. 

Both times I went there were five or six booths set up. Most were selling different spreads of vegetables and produce. There was one vendor selling hot sauces and another selling baked goods. The vendors change from week-to-week, but you can sign up for a newsletter to see who will be selling what each weekend.  

Since COVID-19 became a concern, they’ve shortened their hours, but still camp out on the lawn of the municipal building across from Price Chopper from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Saturday. 

Last time on my search for bread, I bought a baguette from a stand called Pan Diosa for $5. I was between that and some ciabatta rolls from a different vendor, but the rolls were wrapped in plastic whereas I got my baguette in a nice paper bag. 

The cons 

The one really big drawback of the farmer’s market is the price. I saw a booth selling garlic for $2 a head when I got a big bag of garlic to last me the whole semester for less than $5 at Walmart. So while shopping at the farmer’s market is great for your carbon footprint and your local community, the fact of the matter is it’s not as great for your wallet. 

For this reason I think at this point in my life the farmer’s market will be an every-once-in-a-while kind of thing. If I cook a fancy meal, maybe I’ll pick up another delicious homemade baguette to go along with it. If I’m there and I see some interesting vegetables, maybe I’ll find a way to use them. I just don’t think it’s realistic for the farmer’s market to be my number one stop for vegetables, or even a super regular stop for vegetables. 

What this means for you 

If you’re near Storrs or somewhere else, now is the perfect time to go to farmer’s markets because of fall harvests. They’re really easy to find online, plus I’ve noticed a lot of Connecticut towns have signs posted advertising days and times. If you’re living on campus, you could even just walk over and buy a baguette or some other baked good. 

So whether you’re in a place financially and culinarily to shop regularly at a farmer’s market, or if you just want to see what kinds of local, pesticide-free, GMO-free, organic options there are nearby, a trip to the farmer’s market can be a really fun, educational, and mostly zero waste experience. 

Coming up next: Composting, for real this time 

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